Despite being situated in the country’s death penalty belt, it might surprise Georgians to learn that the Peach State’s capital punishment system is increasingly falling into disuse. Georgia hasn’t executed a person since 2020, and the state’s death row sits at around 40 people—making up less than one percent of Georgia’s corrections population.

Capital punishment abolitionists are eager to call “time of death” for Georgia’s death penalty, but not so fast. It seems likelier that it will lay in abeyance indefinitely before the current Legislature would consider repealing it. According to Gallup and Pew, solid majorities of Americans support the death penalty—although support has waned—and a whopping 77 percent of Republicans favor it.

While demographics could easily shift the political landscape, Georgia enjoys Republican control of the state’s Senate, House, governor’s office, and every other statewide constitutional office. It seems unfathomable that leadership would endorse an effort to abolish capital punishment, given the current political makeup.

So far as I can tell, there’s only been one Georgia Republican-sponsored death penalty repeal bill in recent memory, and that came from former Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville. Despite being a force to be reckoned with in the Legislature, his proposal didn’t move. Democrats have introduced similar bills, but the General Assembly is more likely to fund a statue of Nick Saban defeating Kirby Smart than approve them.

Admittedly, there are plenty of conservatives who take issue with the death penalty, including yours truly. However, many of us don’t have categorical moral, religious or constitutional objections to the policy. Moreover, others have made compelling theoretical cases that some crimes are so heinous that they merit the ultimate punishment, but the policy in application is a hazardous, unmitigated mess.

Georgia juries have wrongly convicted at least seven people who were later released from death row in the modern era. Meanwhile, the state has executed others under questionable circumstances, like Troy Davis. He died by lethal injection even though seven of the nine witnesses who testified against him recanted their testimony. Combine this with the fact that the death penalty doesn’t appear to serve a measurable benefit to public safety compared to life-without-parole, and capital punishment costs a bounty more than the alternative.

There are myriad reasons to be concerned, but the primary causes of the death penalty’s decline might surprise you: “Prosecutors almost never seek the death penalty anymore, and juries refuse to impose it when they do,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which makes some sense.

In my opinion, capital defenders are much more competent now; there are more progressive prosecutors who—based on their ideology—are unwilling to pursue death sentences; and some district attorneys can’t justify the cost and time involved. Besides, even if they secure a death sentence, the majority of death sentences are reversed for various reasons.

The appeals process is also costly and painfully slow. Nationally, inmates remain on death row for over a decade on average before being executed. In that time, the government fields a host of last-minute appeals. While many of them are legitimate and have thankfully saved innocent lives from lethal injection—demonstrating that appeals are critically important—a host of them appear baseless, and it’s hard to claim that they aren’t.

A Hofstra Law Review article even asserted that lawyers have an “obligation to raise frivolous issues in death penalty cases,” which slow down the justice system and raise costs on taxpayers. Sometimes frivolous appeals work in the short-term. In Georgia, an appeals court overturned a death sentence because a Bible was in the jury deliberation room.

Some people exploit the Bible to support death penalty abolition, while others say it is a staunchly pro-death penalty book. Whatever the case, did the Bible’s presence substantively influence the outcome? Probably not since the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to die during his retrial. 37 years after committing murder, the state executed him.

Another cause across the country for declining executions over the years boils down to what Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito called a “guerilla war against the death penalty.” What he was referencing was activists who have been “pressuring pharmaceutical companies to stop selling proven lethal-injection drugs, then filing legal challenges when the states turn to new, potentially riskier methods,” reads the Atlantic.

One way or another, the death penalty has been trending downward, especially here in Georgia, and while support for it still remains high, I haven’t heard many calls to get it back on track. For those of us who don’t trust the government to carry out basic functions, like filling potholes or running Veterans Affairs, that’s fine with us.